Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Poetry”

Book 2 (The Catalogue of Ships)

On reading this section, I was reminded of the time when as a young boy I decided to read the Bible.  Neither my family nor I were religious.  It was more out of curiosity than the feeling my soul was in jeopardy.

The only Bible available was the one that sat unread on a shelf in my parents’ closet. It was very old, and the pages were brittle.  I started with Matthew.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get past all the names to line 18 where the story actually begins.  If you think that’s bad, I challenge anyone to read Chapter One of First Chronicles and enjoy it.  One reads dreaming of an oasis, each name another sand dune. When you encounter, “he began to be mighty upon the earth” or “in his days the earth was divided” it as if you’ve found a resting place and fresh cool water and shade. I had nearly the same feeling reading this section of Book 2 and seeing:

“…he stood in their midst,
preeminent, splendid in armor of gleaming bronze,
the greatest of leaders.”  (2.540-542)

The Catalogue of Ships has been addressed by the thedancingprofessor here.

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Book 2 (Initial Impression)

It started off briliantly, and I was certain it was going to be a glorious replay of Book 1. But then a little after the halfway point came The Catalogue of Ships.

Here are a few lines from the first part:
“And as the west wind sweeps through the high-standing grain
with its violent blast, and the ears all shudder and bow:
just so was the army shaken, and in the uproar
men rushed toward the shore, and the dust from beneath their feet
rose high and hung in the air.”
(2.137-141)

Book 1 (Questions)

What struck me most about Book 1 was that Achilles would have killed Agamemnon had Athena not intervened (1.195-205), and later Nestor telling Achilles not to defy the king as he was his superior and that Zeus had granted his kingship. (1.276-281)

Was Nestor’s view of kingship granted by Zeus the prevailing one?
How rigid was the social order?

Book 1 (Initial Impression)

It is told so clearly that even someone not familiar with the storyline would have little difficulty. The language is superb and the words flow so readily it was as if I were reading Wordsworth’s The Prelude.

Thetis says to her son Achilles:
“If only you could have stayed by the ships, without tears,
without pain, since your life is destined to be so short.
Not only must you die young, but your fleeting days
are doomed to be full of sorrow beyond all others.”
(1.408-411)

Translation (The What)

I’ll admit it’s important. However, I also know arriving at the best text is an extremely complicated matter. Seeing I’m not a classicist, am not able to read the Iliad in Greek, and know nothing about the texts under consideration, I will just have to plead ignorance.

Knowing that the earliest full text of the New Testament dates to the 4th century AD, I was very surprised to learn that for the Iliad (Venetus A) it is the 10th century AD.

I really liked what Mitchell says in his Introduction:

“I am under no illusion that I have translated the original text of the Iliad, as written or dictated by the anonymous poet called Homer-just the most intelligent attempt we have at getting back to an original, and a text that I could use as the basis for the most intense possible poetic experience in English.”

Translation

One of the two mentors I was fortunate to study under was a translator. For a while, I played with the idea of becoming one myself. I’ve always been fascinated by translation – the give and take – something added, something lost – the delicate balance necessary to pull it off.

Why such talk? For those who don’t remember, a number of us agreed to read the new Stephen Mitchell translation of The Iliad. Unfortunately, as fate (that’s what I’m calling it anyway) would have it, I ordered the wrong copy and the right one took forever to arrive in my little neck of the woods. In fact, it just got here. Everyone is so far ahead that even if I decided to stop working, and read night and day I would still not be able to catch up. If I were a speed reader it might help, but I can assure you I’m not, and have, in fact, always found the notion of speed and read in the same sentence let alone combined into one word nothing short of sacrilegious.

I have, however, been keeping myself up to date with their posts, and hopefully, through their insights I’ll be better able to appreciate the work.

But in order to do it justice I’ll first finish the books I’m reading as well as one I haven’t started but have had my eyes on. I also really do need to get working again on my second novel, which possibly might come out this year seeing that it’s about 70% finished – like the last one it was started long, long ago…

The idea is to immerse myself in The Iliad, post on it, and perhaps related subjects – depending on if and when the spirit moves.

I claim absolutely no expertise – just an immense love and respect for the written word.

Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing To Byzantium by William Butler Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
–Those dying generations–at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

The Bells

The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe
Hear the sledges with the bells
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Hear the mellow wedding bells
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

Hear the loud alarum bells,
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells,
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells,
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

Hear the tolling of the bells,
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people, ah, the people,
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone,
They are neither man nor woman,
They are neither brute nor human,
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells,
Of the bells,
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells,
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

The Three Rs

Recently I was asked, “Is there a difference between a crow and a raven?”

Instead of faking an answer, which I couldn’t do if I tried, I said I wasn’t sure, and that I’d find out.

We learn from the excellent source I linked that “since ravens belong to the crow (corvus) family of birds, they can be called-but not all crows are ravens.”

Tell me if I didn’t suffer some sort of trauma but after reading “not all…are….” I had a flashback to when I sat for the GRE and tried to twist my very unanalytical mind around the logical reasoning questions.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

479px-Edgar_Allan_Poe_2

Bob Dylan’s wonderful Love Minus Zero/No Limit.

400px-Bob_Dylan_in_November_1963

Brueghel’s The Hunters in the Snow.  (Photograph of painting taken by Yelkrovade)

Les_chasseurs_dans_la_neige_Pieter_Brueghel_l'Ancien

The Forgotten Grave

The Forgotten Grave by Emily Dickinson
After a hundred years
Nobody knows the place, —
Agony, that enacted there,
Motionless as peace.

Weeds triumphant ranged,
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone orthography
Of the elder dead.

Winds of summer fields
Recollect the way, —
Instinct picking up the key
Dropped by memory.

Fiddler Jones

Fiddler Jones by Edgar Lee Masters
The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill – only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle –
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

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